Making a business case for action on climate and nature loss: six years of the WWF-Mondi global partnership

By Alex Lankester and David Bloch

© WWF-SA

The challenges the global environment is facing today are too big, too interconnected and too urgent for any single organisation or sector to solve alone. At WWF, we believe that determined collective action is needed to drive widespread positive change. We need strong partnerships with a variety of other stakeholders, including global businesses, to tackle the growing and dual challenges of nature loss and climate change.

This is why following many years of collaboration in South Africa and Russia, WWF and Mondi launched a global partnership in 2014 to tackle three of today’s biggest challenges namely, deforestation, water scarcity and climate change. The partnership’s goal was to promote a more sustainable pulp, paper and packaging sector.

After six years of the partnership in action, we at WWF are taking a moment to reflect on what we’ve achieved together and the many important lessons that we’ve learned along the way. Nature is everyone’s business and our work with Mondi makes a business case for nature and climate action.

Championing responsible forest management and biodiversity conservation

Forests are providing some of the most vital nature services that underpin the global economy and are critical for supporting the lives and well-being of local people, communities and humanity globally. And yet, they are consistently undervalued in business and investments decisions. This is why the partnership with Mondi these past six years had a strong focus on protecting forest landscapes with the ambition that it could drive sectoral transformation too.

In the last six years, the partnership contributed to protecting 436,000 ha of forest In Russia (the equivalent of just over three times the size of the city of St Petersburg), through three protected areas it helped establish. These are Uftyugo-Ileshsky Reserve, Koygorodsky National Park and Dvina-Pinega Reserve. We also protected 1,25 million ha of intact boreal forest through signing a precedent-setting moratorium in 2017 together with The Silver Taiga Foundation for Sustainable Development. A part of this moratorium area was included in the National Park Koygorodsky, established in 2019.

In Bulgaria, the partnership has supported over 650,000 ha of state forest to achieve Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certification in collaboration with other partners. We also planted 12,000 samplings and seeds along the Maritza River as part of the partnership riparian forest restoration project in cooperation with the Stamboliyski Municipality, local businesses and groups of enthusiastic volunteers.

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Trees in autumn colors in the Lazovsky State Nature Reserve, which is now considered one of the most important reserves in Russia. © Vladimir Filonov / WWF

Promoting water stewardship

Water quality and availability is a growing risk, particularly in South Africa where we started our work with Mondi almost 20 years ago. Water is the life force coursing through our societies and economies and it’s been a challenge explaining to people and businesses that water does not come from a tap. Through promoting water stewardship across different industries and at a landscape level, our work has catalysed individual and collective action to improve water stewardship practices in tough drought conditions. In 2016, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the WWF-Mondi Wetlands Programme (now called the WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership) — one of the longest privately funded conservation programmes in South Africa which, according to Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF-South Africa, has ‘excelled in developing a deep understanding of the socio-ecological issues that are critical to wetlands and freshwater stewardship, and of the technical skills needed to wisely manage wetlands’.

Also, Mondi actively supported the further development of the WWF Water Risk Filter tool by funding and testing a new sector-specific operational questionnaire for Pulp & Paper mills.Today, the Water Risk Filter has become a leading and trusted source of water risk data thanks to its high-resolution data that has been expanded with support from partners like Mondi.

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Freshwater management in South Africa. Mbongolwane wetland meanders through 12 km of the Ntuli Tribal Ward in northern KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. © Chris Marais / WWF

Taking action on climate change

Climate change is one of the biggest threats of our future, with fundamental impacts on places, species and people everywhere. This is why WWF has been actively advocating for all partners to commit to and act towards a net-zero climate future.

In 2018, Mondi Group signed up to Climate Savers, WWF’s climate leadership programme for businesses. In joining Climate Savers, Mondi committed to working to further reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its entire value chain and to take actions to positively influence the packaging and paper industry as well as policy makers. In 2019, Mondi’s science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets were approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). Together, the two targets cover more than 95% of Mondi´s total Scope 1 and 2 emissions. The targets were set in collaboration with WWF’s Climate Savers programme.

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Renewable energy stock image of photovoltaics and wind turbines generating electricity in solar power station. © Shutterstock / Soonthorn Wongsaita / WWF

At a time when the planet urgently needs innovative and lasting solutions to the global nature and climate crises, the WWF global partnership with Mondi offers examples of how by working together, we can share and combine experience, expertise and means to help ensure equitable access to shared resources — for people, for business and for nature. We still have a long way to go but change is underway and that’s a bottom line that counts.

Building a future in which people live in harmony with nature.